The next morning after breakfast, Jeff called for a full debrief on the two rescues. He wanted to hear every detail from each person involved. Since she had gone over her ordeal before with Gordon and John, and later, with Brains, Bekkah found it easier to tell the assembly what happened in the sub. Even so, both John and Gordon insisted on sitting beside her, John with a protective arm around her shoulders and Gordon holding her good hand. For the first time, she heard about the medical care she received from Virgil aboard Thunderbird Two, before being transferred to the lightning-quick Thunderbird One for transport by Scott to Singapore. For the first time, she understood how each Tracy brother played a part in her rescue, even Alan in Thunderbird Five. Her eyes filled with tears of gratitude for Scott, Virgil, and Alan, and she thanked them as she had thanked John and Gordon.
"The question is," Jeff began, after the whole story was told, "what do we do about the Hood?" He looked at each person in the room individually. "We don't know if he survived the explosion of his sub, but since Scott and Virgil didn't report seeing him in the area, we have to assume that he did." Everyone nodded.
"Now Bekkah has remembered one thing she told him while under his hypnotic power: the scheduled shakedown date for Thunderbird Four Mark Two. We need to move this date up, and finish the Mark Two as soon as possible. With Bekkah sidelined for the next six weeks," here Jeff gave Bekkah a warning look, "we'll be hard-pressed to get it finished. But by working together we can do it. Our new shakedown goal will be September 30."
Tin-Tin spoke. "The tri-hull is basically complete. Next will come the wiring harness and the nanocircuitry outside of the master computer processor. Bulkheads and decking are already on their way and the camera gear is here. If everything arrives from the subsidiaries when promised, we should be able to move the reactor from the old vessel to the new around September 15. Then there will be the usual tweaking and minor adjustments. Gordon should be able to use the simulator for training during the last part of September. Everyone else will go through training after the shakedown."
Bekkah cleared her throat. "I know I'm supposed to be resting..."
Jeff scowled at her. "Yes. And you will be. Even if I have to come in and tie you down myself!" Quiet laughter greeted this statement.
Bekkah rolled her eyes. "As I was saying, I know I am supposed to be resting, but I do have one good hand. I was almost finished with the second-to-last motherboard for the CPU. I'd like to finish that and the last motherboard. Then I can rest while I dictate the software. Hiram can put the data drives in and we would be finished up with the CPU ahead of schedule."
"Bekkah. This project is important, but not so important that we will jeopardize your recovery." Jeff was firm. "You will be able to finish the motherboards once your ribs and broken arm heal. Six weeks. However, I will let you work on the software code. That shouldn't be too taxing."
Bekkah acquiesed. She was feeling tired and didn't want to fight. She was beginning to get a headache, and closed her eyes.
She woke up in her own bed. She felt hot and sweaty, as if she had a fever. Her ribs and arms ached, and it seemed she could feel every bruise on her body. Her throat and mouth were parched. John was sitting in a chair by the bed, reading a science fiction novel.
"John." she croaked. He started, closed the book, and leaned over the empty portion of the bed to look at her.
"What can I do for you, Bekkah?"
"Okay." He left the room for a moment and came back with a cup of water and a bendable straw. "Just sip. Don't gulp." he warned her.
She did as she was told. The water cooled her mouth and throat and made it easier to talk. "What happened?" she asked.
"You've had a fever. Often happens when bones are broken. You just sort of passed out in the lounge. Gordon and I have been taking turns watching the kids." John explained. "How do you feel?"
"Hot. And I ache."
"I'll let Brains know you're awake. He'll want to give you some pain killers and some fever reducers." John consulted his watch, and gave Brains the information. Bekkah closed her eyes again and floated off.
Mauve. That's what she saw. A mauve ceiling. Then a flowered border. And pink walls. She straightened up into a sitting position. A horrible, loud creak came from somewhere beneath her.
She knew where she was. She was sitting in her favorite desk chair, an old wooden thing she and Terrence had picked up at an estate auction and she had refinished. It always creaked and groaned as she leaned back in it. The mauve ceiling was in the living room of the house she and Terrence had owned before his death. She was sitting in the computer nook, next to a French-style door. No cast, no bandages, no bruises.
A white cat jumped up on the cluttered desk and asked for her attention.
"Why, hello there, Snowball. Do you want out?" She let it out to the side porch. A black cat came in when the white cat went out.
"Inky! You blot! What are you doing here?" She looked around the room. "For that matter, what am I doing here? We sold this place three years ago."
"You're sick." A deep voice answered. Bekkah's heart leapt into her throat. She got up and moved away from the desk. A figure lay sprawled on the hardwood floor, pen in hand moving over a piece of stiff paper.
"Terrence?" The man turned and looked up at her, smiling through the beard and mustache. He rolled over and got up from the floor. She gawked at him. He was wearing jeans and his favorite Bullwinkle sweatshirt.
"Oh, Terrence!" She ran to him and wrapped her arms around his chest. He leaned down and planted a deep kiss on her waiting lips.
"Hi, Beautiful." He pulled back to look at her. His hands moved to wipe the tears that were streaming down her cheeks.
"I have missed you so much!" she exclaimed through her sobs.
"I've been watching over you all the time," Terrence told her as he held her tightly. He pulled from the embrace to look at her again.
"You are very sick. Your body was so abused by that terrible man, and your mind as well, and you're having a hard time dealing with it." Bekkah lowered her eyes, trying to shut out the memory of her ordeal with the Hood.
"You have to fight, Bekkah. Our kids need you. The Tracys need you. They need you well and strong enough to fight that maniac."
"I don't know if I can. He scares me so."
"You are strong. You are not afraid. Remember?" Terrence held her close. "You have two young men there who care about you deeply. Let them help you conquer your fear. You have helped one already, and soon he will need your help again. A time will come when the other will also need your help. You must be there for them." He put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. For the first time, she noticed he was not wearing glasses.
"Do not be afraid to love again, Beautiful. One of these young men will give you what you desire. Be open to them." He looked up at the mauve ceiling. "I have to go now and so do you. Just walk out the front door."
"Terrence! Don't leave me!" she pleaded.
"I have always been with you and always will be, Beautiful. In your heart and memories. Give the children my love. I love you, my beautiful Bekkah." Terrence's form became more and more transparent, until he faded away entirely.
Bekkah stood alone in the cluttered room. She looked down at the drawing Terrence had been working on. A sketched face looked back up at her.
Okay. Now I know, she thought. She looked up at the ceiling once more as she stepped through the front door and closed it behind her.
"I hated that mauve," she mumbled. Then she opened her eyes.
"Wow, Bekkah, you gave us quite a scare!" Tin-Tin patted Bekkah's sweaty forehead with a cool, wet cloth. Bekkah realized she was in the sick room, and not only was she drenched with sweat, but all the bedding was as well.
"I'm so glad the fever has broken," Tin-Tin continued. "We were very worried when it spiked so high."
"How long?" Bekkah whispered.
"Since you passed out the second time, two days." John's face came into view. "Gave me a fright, too. One minute you're asking for water, the next you've got a temperature of 104 and barely breathing."
"How do you feel now, Bekkah?" Brains asked as he came close to the bed.
"Wet and weak," she answered softly. Tin-Tin offered her a drink, and she sipped slowly through the straw. The cold water felt wonderful in her mouth and all the way down her esophagus. She heard rather than saw Grandma Tracy enter the room.
"Now, let's just move her over to the other bed, where the bedding is dry. Then Tin-Tin and I can help her change into dry clothes. Can you sit up, dear? That's right, just swing your legs over. Tin-Tin, give her a hand there. Now, John, you and Brains support her under her arms. Be careful of that cast there, John. Now, just sit down on the edge of the bed here. You men, shoo! And close the door behind you. Here, dear. Let's get this night shirt off. Chell, did you bring a dry one? Very good. Slide the sleeve over the cast, first. Then put your other arm in. Help her button it up, Tin- Tin." The women helped Bekkah remove her soaked underwear and put on a fresh pair. Then they helped her sit farther back on the bed and swing her legs up onto the dry sheets. She lay back gratefully. Chell pulled the top sheet up over her mom. Bekkah reached out to caress her daughter's face.
"Now, Brains has your pain pills here, and something to keep the fever down." Grandma Tracy fussed. Bekkah obediently took the pills with sips of that wonderfully cold water. Chell helped Grandma Tracy strip the sopping wet sheets from the other bed.
"Okay. She's set. You can come in now."
Gordon herded the boys into the sick room. Terry and Joey ran in and over to their mom. Joey climbed up on the bed to give his mother a gentle hug. Terry went to the far side of the bed to give his mom a big kiss.
"Are you gonna be all right now, Mom?" Terry asked.
"Yes, Buddy. I am. I'm going to be just fine."
"I am going nuts. I can't swim, I can't play pool, I can't type decently, and Jeff still won't let me work on the motherboards. My arm itches like crazy, and I'm going cross-eyed from reading programming code!" Bekkah vented her frustration to her colleagues in the lab.
"Go read a book, Bekkah." Brains didn't even look up from the experiment he was conducting. There was a lull in both the rescues and in constructing Thunderbird Four. They were waiting for the hatches to be delivered, two weeks late.
"I have read every book in my quarters, from Twain to Dr. Seuss," she whined. "Except Moby Dick. And no amount of boredom will ever get me to read that thing." She turned to Tin-Tin.
"Please, please, please Tin-Tin. Tell me where you hid the CPU. Let me work on those last two motherboards. The software is almost ready for loading."
"No, Bekkah. I have my orders." Tin-Tin grinned at her bored companion. It had been four weeks since Bekkah's fever had broken. The cracked ribs were healed, and the bruises were gone. There was just the pesky cast over the broken arm to contend with. And Bekkah was not being a good patient this morning.
"You could start writing a paper to present at the conference in November," Tin-Tin suggested.
"Or go play ping pong with your kids again," Brains chimed in.
"Yeah, and get skunked again by Terry." Bekkah's boys were getting good at the game. Their mother was giving them plenty of practice.
Bekkah sighed. "I'm going for a walk. Maybe a change of scenery will help." She stomped out of the lab.
"I will be so happy when she gets that cast off." Brains favored Tin-Tin with a wry smile.
"You and everyone else." Tin-Tin returned the smile, then went back to her work.
Bekkah headed for the jogging path, taking a sturdy walking stick with her. The stick was a gift from Scott, of all people, and had a heavy weight at the top. She had walked the length of the trail several times in the past few weeks and it no longer held any terror for her. It was shady on the western side of the extinct volcano that made up the island as the day was still early and cool. She put her computer interface in one ear, then she placed a similar speaker, without a microphone, in the other ear.
"Computer, play The Scarlet Pimpernel, first 19 tracks, in order. Increase volume." The strains of the 20th century musical filled her ears. Her head bobbed to the beat of the music, and she occasionally sang aloud as she walked. Even her walk changed as the tempo changed with each song.
She was at the halfway point of the trail when she was grabbed from behind. Wiry, strong arms wrapped themselves around her upper arms. She reacted instantly. She pounded her right foot down, bringing her weight down on her attacker's foot, which caused him to let her go slightly. She slammed her right elbow into her attacker's midsection and he fell away from her. She swung around with the weighted walking stick, aiming instinctively for the head. She didn't connect, because her attacker fell backwards and plopped down on his butt, grinning up at her.
"Gordon!" she shouted. "You...idiot! Don't...Do...That!" She shook her head, clearly annoyed.
"Give me a hand up?" he asked. She reached down with her walking stick. Which Gordon immediately grabbed and pulled, putting Bekkah off balance so she fell on top of him as he fell onto his back. He wrapped his legs around her hips and his arms around her back so that her chin rested on his left shoulder. "Got you now!" he crowed.
She tried to push away, but with one arm in a cast she found it difficult. "Will you please let me go?" she asked through gritted teeth, turning her head to look at his face.
He looked back down at her with one eyebrow raised and an impish grin. "Gotta pay the toll." he told her. "A kiss."
Bekkah sighed and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
He shook his head. "Not good enough."
She meant to kiss him gently on the lips. But he took advantage of the situation and pulled her closer, making the kiss long and deep. Then he moved gently onto one side and let her roll from his embrace. "Much better." He still had a cheeky grin on his face.
Bekkah flushed pink as she tried to stand, leaning on the walking stick. He jumped to his own feet and helped her up.
"Where did you learn those moves?" He rubbed his abdomen where her elbow had connected.
"Scott. He insisted that I learn to defend myself. He'll be teaching me more when I get this thrice-cursed cast off." She started along the path again, this time accompanied by Gordon.
"Computer, replay tracks 18 and 19, then replay album from the beginning."
"What are you listening to?"
"A 20th century musical, The Scarlet Pimpernel." She smiled. "It's an adventure and love story all rolled in one. Set during the French Revolution." She offered him one of her mini-speakers. He put it in his ear. The song playing was a rousing one, about courage and facing down fear. He handed back the speaker when the song finished.
"Computer, end playback." Bekkah put both the interface and the extra speaker in her pocket. They walked along in companionable silence.
"So, who sent you out after me?"
"Who said I was sent out after you?" Gordon acted shocked. Bekkah rolled her eyes.
"Last I saw you, you were pushing Alan in the pool. Your clothes are still damp from the splash."
He put up his hands in a gesture of defeat. "Okay, okay. Scott sent me out when he saw you leave. He is taking security around here very seriously. Your security in particular, it seems." He grinned at her again. "But I must admit, grabbing you in a bear hug from behind was much more fun than dunking Alan. Or it would have been if you didn't have such a sharp elbow."
"I suspect you got as much fun out of it as you could."
He sobered at her flat tone. "Bekkah. What's the matter?"
"Nothing. Everything." Her frustration was bubbling to the surface again. "I need to work. I need to get that CPU up and running. But your father is sticking to his guns and won't let me. I feel helpless and worthless, like I'm not pulling my weight around here. And to top it all off, I'm still afraid. Afraid of that Hood nut. Terrence told me to fight him, but how can I?"
Gordon looked confused. "Terrence told you?"
"Argh!" she growled. "I wasn't going to say anything about that."
Gordon led her from the concrete path over to the twin palm trees that had become their special conversation spot. He helped her lower herself to the sand and then sat down close to her. "Now. Tell your old friend Gordon all about it."
Bekkah took a deep breath and began. "While I was spiking that high fever, something happened to me. Either it was a dream or an out-of-body experience. But I found myself in the house that Terrence and I lived in while he was alive. I was in the living room. And he was there. Lying on the floor, sketching, just like he used to do." A sob caught in her throat. "I was so glad to see him. He kissed me, and he held me tight. I didn't want him to let me go. But he explained that I was sick from the Hood's abuse and that I needed to go back. For the kids. For your family. To fight the Hood. I didn't want him to go, but he told me he was always with me, and he faded away. I walked out the front door and woke up in the sick room."
"I've heard about such experiences," Gordon said softly. "I think I've experienced one, too. But it was my mother I saw. While I was in a coma after my hydrofoil accident. She sent me back to live."
"Hydrofoil accident? What happened?"
"Before International Rescue started operation, I was going too fast in a hydrofoil boat and crashed. I was in a coma for three months and wasn't expected to walk again. But my family wouldn't let me give up, and helped me to recover. Sometimes my back still bothers me, but it's just a reminder that I need to be more cautious."
"Your family bonds are so strong. You are one fortunate guy, Gordon."
"Don't I know it."
The watch on his wrist began to beep, urgently. "That's the emergency signal! We'd better get back to the house, fast!"
"You go ahead. I'll catch up." Bekkah watched him as he sprinted for the villa. She was glad she hadn't told him what Terrence had said about "two young men who cared for her". And that they both would need her help in the near future. And she was especially glad she didn't tell him whose picture Terrence had sketched. He didn't need to know about that. Not yet anyway.
The call had been to rescue the crew of a freighter that was sinking on Lake Superior. The freighter, Edmund Fitzgerald II, had been caught in a bad storm and was nearly capsized. Gordon cut through several bulkheads and part of the hull to pull the surviving sailors to safety. Virgil had a couple of hair-raising moments as the strong storm made it hard to keep Thunderbird Two stable in the air. And they almost lost Alan to the howling winds as he went down in a harness to straighten the fouled cables of the rescue capsule. Scott was miles away on the shoreline in Mobile Control and fretted constantly about his brothers. So it was a wet and exhausted group that returned to base several hours later. They showered and put on dry clothes then filed into the lounge to debrief from the rescue.
"The cables fouled because of the strong winds, Father. The winch was in perfect condition when we left," Virgil explained to Jeff.
"When was the last time the winches were inspected for damage?" Jeff asked. When no one could answer him, he stood up.
"Right. We've been falling behind on our maintenance schedule because of the Mark Two project. Tomorrow, we'll pull Tin-Tin from her work on the Mark Two and she'll work with each of you to go over all of your auxilliary equipment. Starting with Thunderbird Two. It will take a while, and the Mark Two will have to wait, but it can't be helped."
"Father." Jeff turned to Gordon. "Couldn't Bekkah help out instead? She's been... itching... to get back to work." He grinned as his brothers groaned at his pun.
"What can she do one-handed?" Jeff asked.
"She can use those devices of hers. They seem to be made for one hand usage," Virgil answered quietly.
Scott agreed. "She can at least inspect our equipment and tell us what needs to be done to bring it up to safety standards."
"Okay, then. Have Bekkah help you tomorrow, Virgil. But make sure she doesn't do anything too strenuous. She sees the doctor next week, and we want that arm healed." Jeff dismissed his sons.
"Hey, Scott." Gordon followed his oldest brother to his room.
"What's up, Gordo?" Scott asked, sitting on the bed.
"What have you been teaching Bekkah? I snuck up on her today and she about put a dent in my head with that walking stick of hers."
Scott smiled. "So, she's absorbing the lessons, huh? I thought a bit of self-defense training would come in handy. Don't tell Dad though; you know how much he wants her to rest and recuperate."
Gordon frowned. "Yeah. What's up with that? She could be doing light work. She's capable of working on those motherboards she wants to finish. Especially if the job she did on me was any indication." He rubbed his abdomen. "And what's up with you? Being a bit overprotective, aren't you? Sending me off after her as if she was one of her own kids."
"I'm taking the security of the island very seriously, Gordo. And since she's been a target four times now, I think a little extra protection is in order. Don't you agree?"
"Four times. Huh. I'd forgotten about the attempts in South Carolina and Singapore. Yeah, I guess you aren't out of line there."
"As far as Dad is concerned, I think he realizes that she is more than just an engineer for International Rescue. She's a mother, too. He might be thinking of Mom when he looks at her and wants to protect her the same way he would have protected Mom."
"Hmm. Didn't think of it that way. Makes sense, I guess." Gordon got up from the chair where he was sitting. "C'mon. I think I hear Grandma calling us for dinner."
After dinner, Gordon caught up with Bekkah and her kids as they headed back to the Round House. "Want to go for a walk?"
Bekkah smiled. "Thanks, but I can't. I've promised these rascals a favorite movie."
"Uncle Gordon, why don't you come watch it with us?" Terry asked. "Is it okay, Mom?"
"Sure. But I thought you wanted Uncle Virgil to watch with us?"
"Why can't we ask all of them?" Chell wondered.
Bekkah thought a minute. "Okay. You go ask your uncles to join us for a movie. Don't forget Uncle Hiram and Auntie Tin-Tin. Uncle Gordon and I will rustle up some popcorn and soda." The children scattered to make their invitations.
As they went to the kitchen to get refreshments, Gordon asked, "What movie are we seeing, anyway?"
"The Princess Bride." Bekkah answered.
Gordon groaned. "A chick flick."
"Not really. It's got adventure, sword-fighting, revenge, true love, comedy. You'll like it."
"Well, okay. I'll try most anything once."
Gordon didn't know what was funnier about the movie; the film itself or the audience. The kids, who must have seen this movie umpteen gazillion times, knew where all the jokes were and laughed uproariously at them anyway. His brothers made fun of the sword play, the idiocy of the lead kidnapper, the R.O.U.S (Rats Of Unusual Size), and the little wizard who wanted to make the Prince eat dirt. To his surprise, Bekkah leaned up against him and let him put his arm around her, much like Alan did to Tin-Tin. Brains laughed himself to tears at the life-draining machine in the Pit of Despair. And they all had popcorn fights that scattered the treat all over the Barnes' tiny living room. It was a great time, and when the movie was over, it was so late that everyone just went laughing off to bed.
Virgil came in for breakfast as Bekkah and her kids were finishing theirs. "Well, Bekkah. No more lay-a-bed for you. You're to help me check Thunderbird Two's auxilliary equipment today."
"Really?" Bekkah said with surprise. "What happened to the 'she might break, she's made of glass' attitude that's been floating around here for the past month or more?"
"Gordon told us how you are just 'itching' to get back to work. He convinced Father that you could use your diagnostic tools to help us list what needs to be done to bring the auxilliaries up to safety standards."
"Okay. I'll have to get my stuff together. Meet you down in Thunderbird Two at 9:30?"
"Sounds good. Take the passenger elevator to the cockpit."
The Barnes family picked up their dishes and put them in the autowasher. Grandma Tracy looked after them as they left the kitchen.
"That woman has got those kids trained well. I hope that the time she's been spending away from them as she works isn't going to hurt them. I've been trying to fill in, and so has Kyrano, but there's no substitute for a mother's love."
Virgil's eyes misted for a moment. "You're right, Grandma." He cheered up. "But a grandmother's love is the next best thing."
She swatted him with a pot holder. "Oh, go on, you! Eat your breakfast so you won't be late for Bekkah."
Bekkah hadn't been in Thunderbird Two's cockpit before. She got there before Virgil, tugging her equipment duffel from the elevator. She was startled when Virgil's cockpit chute deposited him in his pilot's chair. He toggled on the lights.
"Oh, there you are!" Virgil turned a switch that lowered his uniform rack back into the floor.
"Can I try that sometime? The cockpit chute, I mean. How do you get from head down on that big picture slide to head up when you arrive here?"
"It would be easier for you to try it sometime than for me to explain the whole thing." Virgil grinned. "But not until the cast is off, okay?"
Bekkah sighed. "Okay. Now, where do you want to start?"
"With the winches. The cables have been fouling up lately..."
Bekkah felt good now that she was working again. She and Virgil took apart the housing of the winches to check the motors.
"There isn't much lubrication here, Virgil." She rummaged around in her duffel, and pulled out a tube of silicon gel. "This stuff is the best for machines like this where the motors and cables generate a lot of heat." She proceded to put the lubricant in the nooks and crannies of the motor and around the winch spool housings. It was difficult to do one-handed, but she kept at it while Virgil played out the cable through the hole in the deck. Then they checked the cable itself as it slowly wound back onto the spool. There were several places where one strand would be broken and sticking out, others where the cable was worn smooth and flat.
"You're going to need some new cable, Virgil. This old stuff just won't cut it anymore. Especially in the kind of storm you saw yesterday." Bekkah told him. She had opened a file in her microcomp and made a note about replacing the cables.
Virgil and Bekkah kept working until they were summoned for lunch. After the meal, Bekkah pleaded a headache, and went to lie down and nap. This had happened several times during the past few weeks, but she was not concerned about it.
Rebekkah Barnes! Speak to me! SPEAK TO ME! The voice was deep and insistent.
Bekkah was unable to resist. Her body was deeply asleep, but her subconscious was awake and enthralled by the Hood!
Bite of the dragon
"All right, Hiram. You're doing very well. I'm astonished at the pace of your recovery." Dr. Evan Longfeld looked over Brains's charts. "Your imaging printouts came back and show nearly complete healing of that hip. If you continue with your physical therapy as you have been, you should be able to dispense with that cane very soon. One more follow-up visit, and we'll discharge you for good."
Brains smiled at his doctor. This check-up gone even better than he expected. His back pain had mostly subsided, and although he did get a twinge from his hips now and then, it was manageable. His limp was subsiding, and he was able to stand without aid for longer and longer periods of time. It felt good to be nearly back to normal.
A few doors down, in Orthopedics, Bekkah waited anxiously for the her results from the Imaging lab. If her arm fracture had healed, she would be able to get the cast off. Dr. Mo Fan Huang came in, with Bekkah's chart and her ex-rays.
"Everything looks good, Dr. Barnes. Your fractured arm has healed and so have your cracked ribs. You can get that cast off today." She looked at the cast itself. "You might want to keep it; it's become quite a work of art."
The cast had been colorfully decorated with names and pictures, most of them from Bekkah's children. Virgil did contribute a corner of the artwork, a psychedelic flower. Gordon wrote his name in large block letters on the underside, and the kids colored them in.
"Do you have any other concerns, Dr. Barnes?"
"Well, yes. I've been getting these splitting headaches. They only go away if I take a nap. No pain reliever will touch them."
"Hmm. You didn't have a head injury when you came in." Dr. Huang thought for a minute. "All right. This is what I'd like you to do. Keep a journal of when you get these headaches, and assign them a number, with 1 being slightly painful and 10 being very painful. Record what you have been eating and doing during the day. Perhaps we can see a pattern to the headaches. Meanwhile, I will give you a prescription to be used for the worst of them." She wrote a scrip, and handed it to Bekkah. "You can fill this before you leave."
"Thank you, Doctor." Bekkah sounded relieved.
"Make an appointment for one month from today and we'll see what your journal says." Dr. Huang shook hands with Bekkah, and left. A nurse came in to guide Bekkah to the lab where her cast would be removed. A technician pulled out a power saw with a short, circular blade.
"This will be noisy, but I promise I won't hurt you." The technican started up the saw, and began to split the cast by using it on the top of Bekkah's arm. Then he had her hold up her arm and split it on the bottom. Finally, he pulled the two halves apart, and Bekkah's arm, without a scratch on it. was revealed. It was white and wrinkled, the few surviving freckles standing out sharply. Bekkah flexed her arm, and compared one with the other.
"Looks like I'm going to have to go home and drive around for a while to get my driver's tan back," she quipped. The technician chuckled. He put the two halves of the cast in a bag for her, and she took it with her. She met up with Brains in the hallway.
"Finally free!" she grinned at her friend. They walked together down to the pharmacy to fill Bekkah's prescription.
"Almost finished," Bekkah said, in answer to Chell's question. "Just a couple more minutes, honey." She bent to her task, magnifiers over her eyes, and soldering iron in hand. She was working on the final motherboard for Thunderbird Four's CPU. She made a few more connections, then looked up, satisfied. She slid the circuit board into its slot, and covered up the computer's case with a cloth.
"I'll come back later and start running diagnostics. Right now," she turned to her impatient daughter, "we swim!" The two hurried back to their quarters to change, giggling all the way.
While they were in the Round House, Thunderbird Three returned to its hanger. Chell and Bekkah couldn't see the vessel, but they could hear a muffled roar and feel the house shake as it landed smoothly on its launching pad.
"John's back!" Bekkah exclaimed. There had been a transfer of personnel during Bekkah's early recovery, and now another month had passed and the older spacefaring Tracy son was back on earth.
"Let's go swimming, Mom! The boys are already there!" Chell pulled her mother from the Round House and down to the pool.
The Hood was finding his contact with Bekkah Barnes to be frustrating. At first, it had been easy, breaking into her subconscious while she slept, and obtaining information from her, information he could use. But now, when he tried to suborn her will with his own, he found something blocking him. She wasn't falling asleep anymore, but staying awake. He couldn't figure out what it was. Perhaps it had something to do with the doctor's visit she had a week ago. He would keep trying. The plan he had for her was too important to let her go.
Bekkah had taken over one of the chaise lounges by the pool. The headache that had driven her from the water was increasing and she didn't have any of her prescription pain reliever with her. She closed her eyes against the pain and rubbed her temples. Maybe she could take a nap here by the pool. If Gordon would let her, that is. He had been using his supersoaker gun on everyone, but she had been able to stay out of his range so far. With one last glance to see where her children were in the pool, she closed her eyes again and tried to sleep her headache away.
Ah! The Hood had been able to re-establish contact. He reached out to her in his mind. Rebekkah Barnes! Rebekkah Barnes! Listen to me. Listen to me. This is what you must do...
Bekkah tried to resist. Her head lolled back and forth on the chaise, and she moaned in pain. John, who had just come down to the pool, noticed her and pulled another chaise up next to her, concern on his handsome face. Gordon came around behind him, and seeing him but not Bekkah, snuck up and let go with the supersoaker. John stood up quickly, turning to his brother with a loud, "Hey! Gordo! Quit!" Gordon kept up the barrage, a big grin on his face.
Some of the cold water missed John, and hit Bekkah instead. She woke with a cry of pain.
"Bekkah? Did that hurt?" Gordon ceased his play. She shook her head to clear it and winced with the ache there.
"N-no, Gordon. You just woke me from a sound sleep. I have such a headache," she stammered. She closed her eyes again, but did not sit back. She had the feeling of something wrong, something she was supposed to remember, but for the life of her she could not. She called Terry to her. "Go get my prescription and a glass of water for me, please, Terry."
"Yes, Mom." Terry left on his errand. John took advantage of the distraction to push Gordon into the pool.
"This one is an eleven, I think." Bekkah feebly quipped. She sat back, but did not close her eyes.
"How long have you been having these headaches?" John asked.
"Since my rescue from the Hood. Dr. Kuang is trying to help me find out why I'm having them." Terry returned with the prescription pills and cup of water. Bekkah took the pills immediately. Within minutes, the pain had subsided to a dull ache, and Bekkah relaxed. Then she got up and jumped into the pool. The cool water helped her head to clear.
Again, I could not reach her! The Hood was getting angry and frustrated with this. Perhaps I should try to use my half-brother again. No. That is too much work. I will keep trying with the Barnes woman.
"How are the diagnostics coming, Bekkah?" Brains watched as she put her multitester up to each individual motherboard.
"So far, so good. The boards are carrying power. Do you have the disk drives?"
Brains handed her three drives, two internal ones, and one external mini-CD one. The latter would be able to play music, download software, and write telemetry and video to a mini-CD. She connected the internal drives, tested each one, and nodded in approval. Then she connected the CD drive, tested it, and put the casing on the whole set up.
"Everything looks good." Bekkah turned to her own microcomp. "Now just to beta test the software." She took a mini-CD out of her own CD drive, and popped it into the new computer's drive. She hooked up her mini-keyboard to the new machine and began to download the software that was written on it.
"Now, to take it to the simulator and see how it does." Brains picked up the box and keyboard and left with it.
Bekkah stretched. It had been a long day, but she felt like she had actually accomplished something. Tomorrow she would see how well she had written the software and make the corrections needed to the code. Then Gordon could start training on the simulator while the rest of them prepared to move the reactor from one craft to the other.
She felt hands on her shoulders, hands with long fingers kneading the knotted muscles in her neck. She glanced over her right shoulder, but whoever was there moved to the left. She looked over to the left, and the person moved back to the right. Finally, she sat back and let her head drop backwards. There was Gordon, his usual cheeky grin in place. She moved her head up so he could continue the massage.
"Thanks. I appreciate that," she murmured as she felt her tension ease. "If the software runs correctly, you can start simulator training in a couple of days," she informed him.
"Sounds good." He stopped the massage, and sat down beside her. "Want to take a walk?"
"Not tonight, but thanks. I'm tired and want to get some more sleep. That headache is back." She put her tools away, and the two of them left the lab.
They stopped at Gordon's room. "Sure you don't want to sleep in here tonight?" he joshed with a sly look.
She chuckled. "Gordon, you are incorrigible." She turned to leave. "Goodnight, Gordon. See you in the morning."
"Goodnight, Bekkah. Pleasant dreams."
The Hood did not let up. He knew it was night at Tracy Island and that his victim would soon be in bed asleep. Tonight he would have to give her all of his instructions, planting them in her mind so that she would do his bidding. He felt her consciousness fall silent, and began bringing her will under his control.
Chell was awakened by a sound she had heard before. Her mother was talking in her sleep again. Ever since she had been kidnapped, her mom had been moaning in her sleep and sometimes even talking in it. This had never happened before and Chell was worried. She didn't know who to turn to about it.
She got up from her bed and went to her mother's room. She sat on the clear side of the queen-sized bed and watched her mother thrash about. She was mumbling something about vents and capsules. It took a long time for the thrashing and talking to stop. Chell thought this might have been the longest session ever. When her mom was calm and quiet again, she unraveled the blankets and tucked her mother in. Then she went to her own bed to try and get some sleep. She decided that she would talk to Uncle John in the morning. He would take her seriously and would know what to do.
Bekkah was awakened early the next morning by the emergency signal. She got right up, put on slippers and bathrobe, and headed for the lounge. She gave each of the children's bedrooms a quick glance as she left. Terry was up reading a book. Joey was still asleep, as was Chell. She closed the living room door quietly behind her as she went to see what the emergency was.
In the lounge, she could hear Alan in Thunderbird Five talking to Jeff.
"One of the habitat rings in the International Science Space Station has been holed. So far there are no reports of deaths, but there are plenty of injured people, and they only have a 5 hour supply of air in their space suits. NASA is trying to scramble a shuttle team, but it will take them 8 hours to reach the station. Thunderbird Three can make it in 2.5 hours." Alan finished his narrative.
"Right," said Jeff. "John, Scott, this one is all yours. Take Thunderbird Three up and get as many people off the station as you can. Alan, I want you to keep them apprised of the situation. This will be a difficult rescue, especially since we may not be able to get all of the people off. Thunderbird Three isn't meant to carry many passengers. And the trip back to Earth will eat up the five hours that these people have."
"Jeff, a suggestion." Everyone turned to Bekkah. "How fast can Thunderbird Three get to the moon from the science station?"
John and Alan both did some calculating in their heads and came up with the same answer: under an hour.
"It might be more efficient to ferry the scientists over to the moon colony and have NASA pick them up there. You'd have the time to do more than one trip."
"A good idea. John, Scott, get going. If you need extra hands, pick up Alan from Thunderbird Five." Jeff looked at Virgil and Gordon. "We'll need you two to stay dirtside in case we have another call." John and Scott sat on the couch and disappeared with it into the floor. An empty couch replaced the one they had been sitting on. Within minutes, Thunderbird Three shot out through the Round House and into the sky.
"That probably woke up my sleepy heads. I'd better get back and see." Bekkah left the lounge and went back to the Round House. Sure enough, Joey had been awakened by Thunderbird Three's launch, but Chell was still sound asleep. She must be exhausted, Bekkah thought as she closed Chell's bedroom door.
Chell came to breakfast late and by herself. Bekkah had stayed behind to finish her coffee while her daughter ate.
"Hey, sleepyhead! You took your time getting up this morning. Didn't you sleep well?"
"Yes, Mom. I was just extra tired," Chell lied. She looked around the room. "Where's Uncle John?" she asked, biting into a home-made donut.
"He and Scott had to go out on a space rescue this morning." Bekkah sipped her coffee and reached for another donut. "As soon as you've finished, I'm going to the lounge for an update."
Chell finished her breakfast quickly, and went back to the Round House. She sat down on the side of her bed to think. Who else can I talk to about this? She tried to picture how each of the remaining Tracy brothers would react to her concerns. She thought that Gordon would blow her off; he was that silly. Virgil would be concerned, she was sure, but wouldn't really understand and might not believe her. And she would never try to tell Mr. Tracy about it. Auntie Tin-Tin might be okay, if she wasn't too busy.
"Whatcha doin', Chell?" asked a grinning Joey as he poked his head into her room.
"Just thinking." She knew she couldn't tell Joey what was going on. He was too young to understand. She and Terry had already discussed it; he had heard Mom a couple of days ago. Maybe if she and Terry went to Auntie Tin-Tin. "Hey, Spud. Where is Terry?"
"He's in the lab with Auntie Tin-Tin and Uncle Hiram. They are doing an experiment. There's a big sign on the door saying 'Do Not Disturb'."
"Rats!" Chell decided that she was just going to have to wait.
"We're loading up the last group now, Base." John's picture had been replaced by a live video of him in Thunderbird Three. "We're just within the five hour limit, too. Another hour and we'll be heading dirtside. What's the status on NASA's shuttle?"
"Two hours and counting, bro," answered Alan.
"Great. Thunderbird Three to Thunderbird Five and Base. We're ready to go. We'll check in before leaving Moon Base Two."
"F-A-B, John. Good work!" Jeff turned to Bekkah. "Thanks to you, they got all of the scientists off the station."
Bekkah shook her head, trying to ignore the ache in it. "Someone else would have thought of it, it was that obvious an answer." She rose from her chair in front of Jeff's desk. "I'm going down to the simulator to see what's what with the software. Joey and Chell are on another hike around the Island with Gordon and Virgil. Terry is 'helping' Tin-Tin and Hiram with an experiment. Last two days of freedom before homeschooling starts on Monday."
"Poor kids," Jeff chuckled. "Back to school so soon."
"They would have been back two weeks now in South Carolina," Bekkah told him, as she left the lounge.
The pounding in her head grew as she went down to the simulation lab. Here a mock-up of Thunderbird Four's cockpit layout had been built so that Gordon could get used to the new controls. She sat down in the one of the new pilot's chairs, and put her head in her hands. I need to get my medicine! she thought. But as she rose to leave, her legs buckled beneath her, returning her to the chair. Her eyes closed for just a few moments, then opened again, glassy and unseeing. She got up from the chair as if nothing were the matter and left the room, heading for the repair bay and the new Thunderbird Four.
She stopped long enough to get her tool belt, then climbed aboard the unfinished vessel. Bulkheads were in place, lights were functioning through an outside source. She entered the half-finished cockpit and pulling a screwdriver from her belt, opened up the ventilation grill on the starboard bulkhead. Then she began to put together a device, the plans of which had been given to her the night before.
The Hood could follow her every step, her every move. She was now his eyes, his hands, his tool for the destruction of International Rescue.
"Uncle John? Can I talk to you?" A worried Chell followed John down the corridor to his room. All he wanted to do was grab a shower and something to eat. "Can it wait, Chell? I'd like to get cleaned up."
Chell's bottom lip quivered as tears sprung up in her eyes. John decided that this was the most pitiful face he'd ever seen, and figured that Chell probably knew it, too. But if she was going to have a fit, he'd better forestall it.
"Okay, Chell. What's the matter?" John sat down on his bed and motioned for the girl to take his chair.
Chell sniffled, then composed herself. "It's about Mom. She's been talking in her sleep."
"Is this a problem?" John was nonplussed.
"Well, she's never done it before. Just since she was with that Hood guy. And she does it during the night and whenever she naps. Because of the headaches."
"What does she say?" John heard a warning bell go off in his head.
"Well, last night it was all about ventilation and capsules, and something about a Thunderbird. I don't know which one." Chell looked relieved that he was taking her seriously.
"Where's your mom right now?"
"I don't know."
John consulted his wrist communicator. "Bekkah? Bekkah? Where are you?" An uneasy silence passed, then they heard Bekkah mumbling.
"John? I-I'm in the simulator. What's the matter?"
"Just stay right there, okay? I need to talk to you." He got up and headed for the simulation lab, Chell in tow. He found Bekkah, looking pale and wan, in one of the pilot's chairs.
"What's up?" she asked.
"How did you get here?" John asked gently.
"Under my own power." Bekkah smiled at him. "I was going to run a diagnostic on the computer software. I must have fallen asleep. My headache is gone."
"You had another headache?" Chell queried. Bekkah looked up at her daughter and took her hand.
"Yes. And it was a doozy, too. But it's gone now. I'm okay, really." She looked from one to the other. "Why are you so worried?"
"Bekkah, did you know you were talking in your sleep?"
"No, John. But is it important?"
John didn't know what to tell her. "No, I guess it isn't. Except you've been waking Chell up and she's a bit worried."
"Oh! That explains why you slept in so late, honey. Don't worry about me, sweetie. If you hear something like that, just roll over and go back to sleep. You don't need to get up."
Just then, Scott's voice came over the telecomm. "Hey, John. Grandma says that dinner is almost ready. If you want to eat, better get up here before Gordon scarfs it all."
"F-A-B, Scott." John stood back as Bekkah got out of the pilot's seat. She seemed steady enough and color was coming back to her face. She put an arm around Chell's shoulders and they headed to the dining room.
That night, Chell looked for her tape recorder. She was determined that if Mom started talking in her sleep again, she was going to get proof of it, and show it to John. She found the mini-recorder and a clean tape and put them next to her pillow. Mom was up late in the lab again, making up for her nap that afternoon. Chell left her bedroom door open to hear better. She would sleep until she heard Mom, and if Terry heard Mom instead, he was supposed to come get her. So she put her head down on the pillow, her arms around her bear, and dropped off.
Bekkah came in two hours later. She got ready for bed, and she checked on the kids, as she always did if she couldn't tuck them in. She closed the children's doors, and in an unusual move, closed her own. She wasn't going to let any night time disturbances keep her kids from getting a good night's sleep.
The next day, Jeff flew Grandma and Kyrano to the mainland to shop. Scott, Virgil, Gordon, and John played tennis for most of the morning. Terry was once again closeted with Brains 'helping' with an experiment. Tin-Tin took a willing Joey to the tidal pool. And a disappointed Chell curled up with a book. She noticed that her mom had closed all the bedroom doors the night before, so she slept through the night.
"Chell, I'm going back down to the simulator. There are quite a few bugs for me to iron out in the navigational program. Call me if you need me." Bekkah went back down to the simulator and began to work. She felt the headache come on quickly this time, too quickly to call her daughter for her prescription. And in moments, the Hood had his tool in motion once again.
Bekkah woke up in the simulator lab, feeling exhausted. She leaned back in the pilot's chair. I must have dozed off again, she thought. That's funny. Two days in a row down here. Probably because it is so quiet. She stretched, feeling sore muscles in her arms. Wonder if I'm coming down with something. She looked at her hands and was startled to find a bloody finger. The fingernail had ripped off down to the quick. She got up unsteadily and made her way to her bathroom, where she could treat the injury. On her way, she looked at her watch. Four o'clock? How long have I been asleep, anyway?
Since Grandma and Kyrano were away from home overnight, Tin-Tin and Bekkah were in charge of the kitchen. Tin-Tin was already there, starting dinner. Bekkah came in and poured herself a glass of orange juice.
"Did my kids get any lunch?" she asked. Tin-Tin turned to her with a surprised expression.
"There you are! We looked and looked for you and couldn't find you. You didn't answer your telecomm. The children were beside themselves with worry."
"I fell asleep in the simulator again. I told Chell where I would be."
"Chell said it was the first place she looked and you were gone."
Bekkah frowned. "I just woke up there a few minutes ago. Chell must have just popped her head in and swept the room with a glance. I'll tell the kids what happened." And have a little word with Chell, she thought to herself.
She told everyone what happened at dinner. Chell tried to protest that she had been thorough when she checked the simulation lab, but Bekkah gave her a "later for you" look and she subsided grumpily. John was getting alarmed, though he didn't show it. He himself had checked the simulator and found no sign of Bekkah. What had really happened that afternoon? he wondered.
Uncover the dragon
That night, Bekkah had a word with Chell, one that left the girl in tears and ended in the slamming of Chell's bedroom door. Bekkah had to wonder if the girl was finally headed into puberty. It would be about time, she thought.
Bekkah couldn't get to sleep. She tossed and turned on her bed, a headache of truly monumental proportions building. She took her medicine, but it only dulled the pain instead of removing it as it normally did. Finally, Bekkah was driven from her bed, out into the cool night air, no bathrobe, no slippers. There was a voice in her head that kept nagging at her. A voice she knew but could not recognize. A voice that made her sick to her stomach. She stumbled down to the twin palm trees and crouched down, head in her hands. Her lips formed the words: Get out of my head! Get out of my head! Go away! Get out of my head!
Gordon was standing on the beach. Which was odd, because he had just pulled the covers up over his head get some sleep. John was standing in front of him on his right, and he was looking at someone in front of him. A heavyset man, balding, with a full beard and mustache peppered with silver. He wore a Bullwinkle sweatshirt and jeans.
"John?" Gordon was afraid to ask what was going on.
John ignored him. He asked the other man, "Who are you?"
The man's voice was deep and rich. "Terrence." He moved and pointed down the beach. "Bekkah needs you. By the twin palms."
John and Gordon looked at each other. When they looked back. Terrence was gone. And coming from the vicinity of the palms came a scream.
Gordon sat bolt upright in bed. The scream still rang in his ears. He didn't know if he actually heard it or it was in the dream. Someone was pounding on his door.
"Gordo! Hurry up! We have to find Bekkah!" John's voice sounded through the door.
Gordon jumped out of bed and threw the door open. "Did you...?"
"Yeah. A dream. Let's go."
They scrambled down the hall and out the door, headed up the beach. John outraced Gordon to the palms by seconds. At the base, crumpled into a ball, was Bekkah. She had her head in her hands and was shaking it back and forth, muttering, "Get out of my head! Go away! Get out of my head!" Her mutterings became louder and louder, shriller and shriller, until they culminated in a shriek, "GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" Her body was thrown back by the force of the scream. Her eyes rolled back, and then she went limp in Gordon's arms.
Gordon looked at John. "Go wake up Brains and get the sick room prepared. I'll bring her."
John nodded and took off. Gordon lifted Bekkah in his arms. She felt much lighter than she had when he carried her off the Hood's submarine. He moved quickly down the beach to the villa, where lights were coming on and voices were being raised. Scott met him at the bottom of the stairs with an anti- gravity stretcher, and between them they got Bekkah into the sick room.
"Tin-Tin has gone to check on the children," Virgil told them. "She'll be back in just a minute."
Brains was setting up various sick room monitors and attaching them to Bekkah's body. "BP is up 120 over 95. Temp is normal. Heart rate accelerated. She is flushed. Eyes sluggishly responsive." He turned to Gordon and John. "Now. Tell me what happened."
After hearing Gordon and John recount how they found Bekkah (they said nothing about the dream), Brains hooked Bekkah up to the EEG. Tin-Tin returned, reporting that the Barnes children were fast asleep, and helped Brains to set up the mobile brain scanner. Several readings of Bekkah's brain were taken, and as they exited the printer, Brains took a microscope to them. The EEG kept spitting out tape, and once in a while Brains would look at it, too. After about 15 minutes of the EEG readings, Brains glanced at it and did a double-take.
"Tin-Tin. Please go into our medical records and find the EEGs we did of your father when he had his last attack."
"My father?" Tin-Tin was puzzled.
"Yes. I need to compare them to Bekkah's right now." Brains's stutter had disappeared as he immersed himself in his work.
"Yes, Brains. Right away." Tin-Tin hurried down to the Lab's files. It took a few minutes to find what she needed, but as soon as she did, she was back in the sick room.
Brains held Kyrano's EEG up next to Bekkah's. Gordon looked over his shoulder. Most of the lines were definitely different. But there was this one long undulating line that was exactly the same in both EEGs.
Gordon looked at Brains. "What does it mean?" he asked.
Brains put the EEGs aside. He pulled off his glasses and wiped them with a piece of silk. "Both Kyrano's attacks and Bekkah's come from the same source." He put his glasses back on and looked Gordon in the eye.